Welcome to the Real World, Sugar Cookie.

Listening to:
“Impossible” → Lyla Foy
“Stay Alive” → Jose Gonzalez

Several months ago, I had an “I am Woman, hear me roar!” moment. I finally landed a “big girl” job (which to me, personally means that I was finally out of the Customer Service/Sales circuit and into something within my future career field – English Education). I was hired at an organization as a Support Specialist, which I was initially told is essentially a Teaching Assistant for kids with disabilities and behavioral issues.
I. WAS. ECSTATIC. I was so proud of myself, which is a rare feeling for me. I felt like I was worth something, and other people noticed. I felt accomplished.

After a couple months I began mainly working in the Adult Program, mostly in building and mostly with people with Autism, but also a few community clients with Depression and PTSD. I quickly began to realize this was not the job that was initially described to me.

One client is Non-Verbal and can get instantly upset seemingly out of nowhere. I have been screamed at and slapped in the face several times. It is sometimes hard to remember she is upset and can’t communicate what she wants or needs, which surely causes more frustration, and that the lashing out is not personal, even though it stings physically and emotionally.

Another client has anger issues and in order to work with him one on one, you have to be CPI trained (trained to put him in holds, not if, but when he becomes violent).

Another client, a community person, is homeless and jobless and it is my job to essentially be his life coach and keep him moving forward and on track. Which is very difficult when he wants to drink himself to death.

Several other clients, over the age of 18, some with Autism or MS or both, are quite cognitive and verbal, but cannot toilet themselves. Which is….well….yeah…

And yet another, a young girl entering her Senior year in High School suffering from ADD, PTSD and Anxiety, so naïve, so vulnerable, so sweet.

All I ever wanted to do when applying for and accepting this position, was to teach someone something. To make a difference in at least one person’s life. To be a constant. A mentor. To help shape a life and see it grow and succeed. To learn something myself.

There have been ups and downs, progress and backtracking for all. But after one particular week of several slaps in the face from one, another receiving death threats and needing to be reported for possible suicide watch, another soiling herself at the park and then having to get into my car, and yet another, needing me to report to Child Protective Services for possible in home abuse, I began to go into mental breakdown mode. Was this the rough and tough real world my parents always told me about but I never believed existed?

I felt lost. Like I was a failure. I felt heartbroken for not being able to help and save everyone. I let them all down, I let my supervisor and fellow employees down, and I let myself down.

The stress continued to build and after weeks of debilitating anxiety attacks, severe depression, feeling as if I can’t do a thing right and I am not helping anyone, today that changed.

Upon leaving I had a client (the homeless, jobless, “drink himself to death” client) tell me I “have been a Godsend” and that he “wouldn’t have been able to go on had I not been there to help the way I have.”

Never miss an opportunity to tell someone how you appreciate them. Even the tiniest of compliments can pull someone back to a happy reality. And even if you feel like you aren’t making a difference, if you truly care, then you are.

Do good. Be good. Spread the love.

And that folks, is my lesson of the day.
🙂

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You’re Out of Your Element, MK…

Listening to: “Cool Kids” → Echosmith

Thinking about: The Big Lebowski

If only I knew what my element was, I’d like to be in it. Herein lies the daunting task that many of us face daily: fitting in.

What makes it most difficult is that at any given moment we can be playing a multitude of roles which we need to fit into.

Take me for example: daughter, sister, student, not just any student but a “non-traditional” student as I am older and returning to school, employee, support specialist, friend, girlfriend, to my boyfriend’s friends I am the new girlfriend of their guy friend who is also the ex-boyfriend to a girl they are still friends with (yeah that one is messy…), tenant, neighbor, stranger at the store or gas station or library or wherever….

My point is, I am one who wants to please everyone, and I want everyone to like me, all while being true to myself. But, WHO THE HECK AM I??!!?? I think it’s easy these days when “acting out our roles” to lose ourselves in them and the people surrounding them. You want to stand out and have people see and appreciate you for who you are, and yet you want to fit into their lives and have a sense of commonality. Conundrum!

How do you do both? Is it even humanly possible?

Well, it is and it isn’t, but more importantly, I have learned it doesn’t completely need to be.

I most likely will never “fit in” with the cool kids I attend college with and I don’t want to (at 28, I am 6-10 years older than most of them….ugh). But being the loner in the corner doesn’t go well when you have group projects. They don’t need to know how old I am, nor do we need to hang out on Thirsty Thursday. But I can still be my quirky, sweet self and have classroom friends.

I am my boyfriend’s girlfriend and he does love me completely for who I am. Which is a wonderful thing. And while it is important for family and friends of a significant other to like you and vice versa, just as in every aspect of life, not everyone will. Especially if they are still friends with his “super awesome and nice” ex girlfriend…(HEY!!! GUESS WHAT??!?!? I’M SUPER AWESOME AND NICE!). This one is a bit tough…I have learned on a couple first impression expeditions that maybe my quirky side might just have a bit to much quirk to it for some people (especially when mixed with alcohol…). So, you can and should be yourself, but maaaaaybe tone it down a bit the first couple of times until you really get to know a person, understanding their possible loyalties to both your significant other and their ex. All in all, if the two of you love each other, truly make each other happy, and are undeniably good for each other, most everyone will come around. And if they don’t, it’s a battle that’s just not worth fighting.

When it comes to work (and neighbors and strangers and every other person on the list), this one is much the same, with an extra dose of common sense. Be respectful. Be professional. Don’t swear. Using proper English is always a plus. Unless you have this person’s job, then throw it all out the window and let yourself loose! Wooooo!

Conclusion? Don’t lose yourself, embrace yourself. Don’t compromise your beliefs, desires, or feelings for someone else, but do be aware and respectful of the situation. There have been plenty of times I have spent the entire day holding in a temporary and sudden onset of turrets, letting it all out upon entering my tiny, thin-walled apartment (sorry neighbors…).

WE, my friends, ARE cool kids. And don’t you forget it!

Find you, find your element, and GET IN IT!

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Do Good, Be Good.

Reblog, because it’s necessary.

It shouldn’t be so hard to be kind and do the right thing.
Do Good. Be Good. Spread the love. Pay it forward.

LettersToADove's Blog

“Boy With Autism victim of ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Prank”

I read the above article today, and short of eating bad food, nothing has caused such an instantly negative, physical reaction within me. I started crying, I wanted to vomit, and then I wanted to hug the boy and his family. The fact that there are still such cruel and ignorant people out there (when they are imperfect themselves) breaks my heart.

My brother is 13. He is also Autistic. And to me, he is perfect. I wouldn’t have him any other way. We were all blessed to have him grow to be very high-functioning, but there were many days during his childhood where we as a family struggled with him. We did fear that he wouldn’t eventually go to school, make friends, get a job, drive, or have any other part in the “American dream”. But even with all of…

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Goodbyes Are Easy…Said No One Ever.

When I think of my grandmother I still see her as she was years ago: true red lipstick, short black hair with perfect waves of curls pinned back, clip-on costume earrings, and black pumps. So classic.

She is 91 years old now and no color other than natural has been on her lips in years. Her curls have turned gray, earrings are only worn on very special occasions, and pumps have been replaced by flats for nearly a decade. But to me, she is still beautiful. She is timeless.

A few days ago (Wednesday) my father called me to inform me that she had fallen and broke her leg…as many elderly do. She was to have surgery the next day. As she lives a few hours away, and I am nearly overwhelmed with work and school, I wouldn’t be making a trip. The expected outcome of the situation was overall positive.

Last year, around the holidays, over a period of a month or so, she suffered 4 strokes. 4! Many people don’t even survive one but this woman is unlike any other. She had been living on her own, but in order to be released after the 4th stroke the Doctor stated she had to live in either Assisted Living or a Nursing Home. So, we as a family spent the next 3 weekends in a row finding a new home for her, packing, cleaning, moving and unpacking her life. Those 2 months were terrible. As a child growing up in a single parent home, it was my grandparents who raised me much of the time while my father worked overtime each week and returned to school. The thought of losing the woman who raised me, my true mother figure, was devastating. I understand reality and the worst part about life is that it always ends in death. Yet I think nothing can truly prepare you. Well we made it through that and soon she returned to her quirky, perfect self.

So her surgery and initial recovery went as well as possible, and we were informed she would have to stay in the rehab section of a nursing home for at least a month, with the possibility the nursing home could become a permanent residence, but still, a near-full recovery was expected. So I went on with my next day and a half as usual, finally sleeping again and the anxiety attacks subsided.

Until the other evening (Friday), my father calls as I am driving home from work and says, “Grandma’s checking out”. WHAT. THE. HELL??!? With all the pain and weakness and remembrance of her health issues over the past year, she was somewhere in between acceptance and giving up. So she had called my father to say goodbye, and he told me to call her.

So I instantly did. While still driving. Which I don’t remember, and DO NOT recommend (seriously, while crying and saying your supposed last words to a loved one, pull over.). We had a 15 minute conversation which I will never forget and will mostly keep sacred to myself. But it was the most heartbreakingly beautiful conversation I could ever ask for. Being told she loved me, she was proud of me, was lucky to have had me…it almost took the pain away for a moment. Not many people get the opportunity to have that moment with a dying loved one. A treasure more priceless than any physical object or any experience. I had flashbacks of her putting on her red lipstick and chunky earrings. Flashbacks of her making macaroni and cheese. Flashbacks of her playing “Go Fish” with me. We said “I love you” for the 50th time that conversation, and then “Goodbye” for the seemingly last time. Cue hyperventilation and more sobbing. While still driving home. Cue a night with zero sleep and a never-ending anxiety attack. Cue nausea. Cue returning to prayer since…I don’t know when. Cue a piece of my heart dying, and wishing that it could be my heart instead of hers.

The next morning my father called and said she had made it through the night and was considered stable. Move forward one more day and she is finally starting to eat and sit up. She is asking for visitors and hasn’t talked about death in awhile. Move forward one more day and she is determined to get better and make it through this. To go to rehab and return to her assisted living afterwards. This beautifully strong woman seems to have pulled through again. But this time, we really do realize we won’t get many, if any, more opportunities like this.

You may not get the chance to say “goodbye” or “I love you” to or hear it from someone who is dying, and you someday will be the one falling asleep. So, so cliché yet so true, say it whenever possible. And if it is truly meant and shown, there is no such thing as saying it too much. Give as much love as you can to those you love. You truly do not know when the last moment is.

My beautiful Grandmother on her wedding day. To this day she is just as perfect.

My beautiful Grandmother on her wedding day. To this day she is just as perfect.

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Plain Jane meets the World

My life experiences thus far have shown me that humans, while so different, in many ways are quite alike, and all very interesting. The chance to connect with anyone, even a stranger, for only a minute holds the possibility of being life changing.

Between the years of 2007 and 2011, I followed my boyfriend at the time from Small Town, WI to Sanford, Florida. The beginning of our relationship was a whirlwind. Not too long before we started dating he had broken up with his girlfriend of 3+ years, and I had finally ended a very abusive relationship. We met through my cousin and within a couple weeks of first meeting, around Christmas, we began dating. 

We had only been together a few weeks when he told me that it had been his life-long dream (he was 25, I was 20) to be an airline pilot, but never felt the support of his girlfriend at the time, and had never had enough confidence to just go for it. But now, he was going to do it. I supported it. I was quite excited for him, and while I liked him a lot, our relationship was so new, neither of us were too seriously invested. Our own lives were our priorities. He told me he’d be moving to Florida within a month or so.

About a week or 2 after him breaking the news, we went for a walk around his neighborhood. He asked me to move to Florida with him. He was wonderful, I was young and had never lived outside of Wisconsin, or done anything so….big! So, I said “Why not?!” and we both said if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. By the time we had been dating for 6 weeks, he moved. I stayed behind to work and save money for another 6 weeks. 

While Florida may not seem too far or very different, it was a bit of a culture shock for me. I was used to the small town life, knowing everyone, keeping my doors unlocked…our first night together there he took me for a ride on his motorcycle. My first time. He was one of those men with a compass built into his nose. Navigating his way by the sun and the stars. We were riding along on some back roads in the Ocala National Forest when we saw something amazing in the sky. A shiny metallic object flying higher and higher into the sky. Fire and a huge line of white smoke attached as a tail. We stopped in the parking lot of a gas station to watch our first (of many) Space Shuttle leave our atmosphere. A breathtaking sight. 

As we sat there, taking it all in, smiling and so excited, we are interrupted by a car suddenly pulling up to the front door of the gas station, a guy runs out leaving it running, runs into the store, runs back out with a 6pack of beer, drives off with tires squealing, and the owner running out, yelling, scissors in one hand, a portable phone in the other. This was our first (also of many) time we ever saw a robbery, let alone any crime in general. (We stayed long enough where a retail store I worked for was robbed of clothes on a near-daily basis, where we locked the doors during the day while we were at home without even thinking about it, and when Casey Anthony “lost” her daughter….Florida soon became a place like no other.)

One day, one of my favorite experiences not only of living in Florida but of my entire life thus far, took place at a Publix. Now if you know me, you know I have a severe distaste for grocery shopping. I just don’t like it. But one day, after hearing how great the Publix stores are (seriously, how “great” can a grocery store be??!?! …well….they need those stores everywhere because they. are. wonderful. !! (Although Woodman’s and Festival Foods here in Wisconsin are pretty great too)) we decided to do our shopping there. Now, another thing to know about me is that I rarely have any sense of “stranger danger”. I’m quite comfortable with striking up a conversation with any random person in the vicinity. While we were in the checkout line, I noticed the older gentleman behind me was wearing a Green Bay Packers hat. HELL YES! I am not only PROUD to be from WISCONSIN, I am PROUD to be a PACKER-backer CHEESEHEAD through and through. So, of course, like a giddy little girl I turn to him and say, “Awesome hat! I’m from Wisconsin!” And do you know how that man replied??!? He said to me, “Thanks, I used to play for the Packers”. 

Well my jaw dropped and I somehow became even more giddy (and goofy) than before. “OH MY GOD who are you?!?” I asked while extending my hand for a shake. “Gene Breen” he said, “I played in ’64 with Bart Starr”. After telling him how amazing that was, as if he didn’t know, he told me he’d always consider himself a Packer, and them to be his team. “It’s a great organization and a great state.” It was then that I realized this was THE ONE TIME I had left my camera and phone at home. But even without the physical proof of this memory, this is one I will never forget. I walked out of that store just beaming. The coolest person I had met, hands down. So nice, so humble, so proud of this great thing he was once a part of that he will always feel part of it. ((Later I concluded that due to “A+B=B+C means A=C” transitive property or something (I hate math.), since I shook his hand, he on many occasions shook/high-fived Bart Starr’s hand, I have, therefore, touched Bart Starr’s hand (just let a girl dream her dream).))   And we had a connection. Something so seemingly simple as a logo on a hat turned out to be something so big for both of us. Two strangers, one love. And then we both turned and walked along and moved on with our lives. 

What I am trying to convey with this story, is that other people come in and out of our lives. Sometimes their presence is fleeting, sometimes it becomes permanent. Never be afraid to reach out. Always be kind. Make a connection, be it with a smile, a compliment, or even a proposal for a first date. The world is full of a lot of people. All different, and all alike. You never know the impact a personal encounter can hold…where in the world it can take you, what of the world it can teach you. Humans, can be, beautiful creatures. Let’s not let each other forget it.

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A Laugh a Day….

A day is only bad if we aren’t able to laugh at any of the mishaps.

The last couple of days have been so full of mishaps, it is impossible for me to not laugh, and also impossible for me not to share. So please, laugh along.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I recently returned to college after somewhat of a hiatus. I had been crazy bag of emotions in the days leading up to my first day, but this past Monday I woke up ready to take it all on. Deep breath in, several cups of coffee, and I even ate breakfast which is a rare thing for me to do. I checked my schedule about 1.7 MILLION times. I did my hair (another rarity). I. WAS. READY.

I arrived on campus 30 minutes early. This was perfect, I thought! I went to my first building, found my classroom, and went around the corner to the cafe/lounge area and relaxed with another cup of coffee. About 10 minutes before class many people started crowding around the door. My first class was in a large auditorium with a set of doors on each side of the room for smooth traffic flow. I got up and proceeded to wait with the masses for the previous class to finish and exit. I overheard a student near me ask another, “What room are you in?” to which the other replied, “Right here, 1309”. Fantastic. Just another confirmation I was in the right place. Finally the doors opened and soon we all begin piling in, sitting down, pens and notebooks ready. Here I am! I am back!

I sat towards the front, in the middle of the row. Within minutes the room was packed. Within a few more minutes the professor begins to speak. She states her name (I hadn’t really bothered to look at the names of my instructors), gives a little information about herself and starts to talk about the basic expectations of the class and us as students. After a couple minutes, and once the projection screen finally showed the class name and number, I had that sick, sinking feeling. I’m in the wrong freaking class. I sneak a look at my schedule, still positive I was in the right room. I saw the sign outside the door! But after a few more words from her mouth, it was confirmed. This was a health class. I definitely didn’t sign up for that one. And here comes the conundrum. I am in the middle of 250 people. Class has been in session 10 minutes. Do I try to quietly gather my things and discretely (yeah right) climb over everyone in my row, exit the room and THEN try to continue being quiet and discrete and enter the correct room…if I can find it? Well this decision took another 5 minutes. The clock is ticking. I am probably twitching. I mean, this is the first day of the semester. People are still switching their schedules around throughout the entire 1st week so it’s normal to miss a class, right? Ugh. Honestly, I said to myself, “Fuck it.” I bit that embarassment bullet and got up and got the hell out of there….head high but eyes to the ground. Luckily I didn’t trip up the stairs. But either way I might as well have been living one of those “naked in front of an audience” dreams.

I got out of the room, and right to the left was another set of doors…..for my correct class. The “1309” sign was slightly closer to those doors than my original set. Cute. So I walk in, luckily during a lull in the class, but sure enough, the professor sees me, waves me up front to pick up the syllabus. I told him I wished I had the excuse of being a tourist in a different country, but I am only just a transfer student who should have stopped at Sesame Street first to review my numbers. He laughed. Class resumed. At the end of it a boy next to me said he didn’t blame me for getting lost, there’s rumors going around the Psych students switch classroom numbers and study the reactions of people. I laughed. All was fine with the world again.

….

Until I went to the bathroom before my 2nd class. Some people leave their coats and backpacks on the floor out by the sinks. I’m still new and awkward and untrusting so I bring my coat, my backpack, my purse and my coffee all in the stall with me. I use the toilet, as all humans do, gather all my stuff and as I walk out of my stall towards the sink, another girl enters the bathroom and walks right into the stall I walked out of….EVERY OTHER STALL IS EMPTY. ((who does that??!?)) As I am drying my hands I immediately realize something is missing. My coffee. It’s in that stall. On the shelf. Behind the toilet in which I hear her urinating. Goodbye almost full venti dark roast. Due to the possibility of the splash effect I must leave you behind. Ugh.

Luckily I made it to my 2nd class, on time and in the right room on the 1st try. The class went well, and by the time it ended my excitement and confidence had returned. My goodness! What a roller coaster of a morning! I walk down the steps, and open the doors to the frigid air and the sun extra-brightly reflecting off of the snow. I turn my backpack around, open the front zipper to pull out my sunglasses, and what do you know. They have snapped in half. If only I had some white tape to repair them I could have rocked the nerd-taped broken glasses look after the day I had been having! But alas, I walked to my car with my eyes squinted.

But I made it. Even with those silly mishaps, I still did it. I took a step toward my goal, and even in the face of fear and embarrassment and frustration, I kept going. And I laughed. A lot. How could I not?!? It was 11:55 am and the morning had been simply ridiculous.

They say things happen in 3’s….so I should be golden for awhile.

Right??!?

Need some extra laughs at someone else’s expense in your day? Follow me on Twitter for more of my Back To School “experiences”.

And don’t forget to laugh.

🙂

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Back to School, Back to School

Education is the movement from darkness to light. ~Allan Bloom

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. ~Albert Einstein

Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one. ~Malcolm S. Forbes

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~John Dewey

Well I have almost survived my first week returning to college after a several year break. Just one more day to go. This return has made its way to #9 on my bucket list; so it is written, so it shall be done. Right??!?

I have a bit of a funny attitude about this return, and I’m sure a Psychologist could analyze it perfectly, but I think I know what’s going on in my head.

As I see it, there are 2 main types of knowledge, or “smarts” we obtain in life: street smarts and book smarts. Things you learn from life experience, and things you learn via reading and being structurally taught in an academic setting. Having both is quite vital to making it in this world. (Trust me, I knew a girl who had perfect grades, but zero common sense….it was astounding to me how intelligent and dumb she was all at once. How she survived outside of the library I will never understand.)

As I am an average of 5-9 years older than the majority of the student body here, it is difficult to not have some sense of arrogance about me, as I have experienced more. I have lived in that “real world” our parents began threatening us with in High School. Why do I need to sit next to anyone who has never filed their own taxes? Paid their own cell phone bill? Gone grocery shopping or chosen to watch a Presidential Speech instead of a reality show? Don’t I know more than them? Shouldn’t I be given an honorary piece of paper stating I paid a lot of money and took a lot of classes? And how come one even needs a piece of paper to prove to employers out there that we are capable and deserving of a career? Why can’t an interview and on-the-job training suffice?

This defiance and defensiveness is mostly based off of fear and self-disappointment. Fear of standing out and not fitting in. It is uncomfortable going to class and sitting alone, while groups of 2 or 3 come in together, knowing each other from the previous semester, having signed up for the class together. Do I look old? I shouldn’t….I am not at the age of wrinkles and I am wearing boots, leggings, a chunky sweater and a scarf JUST LIKE every other female here…maybe if I incorporate catch-phrases like “hashtag yolo” and start taking more selfie’s I’ll be set. 

Why am I even worried about this? One advantage I should have with my age is maturity. Self confidence. I should be proud to be me and not care what other people think. The High School popularity contest is long gone. And I’m just here for that piece of paper anyway…right?

So why the self-disappointment? Because I shouldn’t be here right now. I should have been here 5-9 years ago. That piece of paper should be in a dusty frame on the wall in the house I own in Suburbia. Another advantage I should have with my age is acceptance. Understanding that life turned out the way it did and it isn’t too late. The ability to not be debilitated by regret. There is a lot to be said about swallowing one’s pride and taking a vulnerable leap. 

I’m beginning to see that college, no matter when in your life you attend, is so much more than a piece of paper. Sure, each class you take specific to your major will allow you to be the best you can be in your specific career (how can you be what you want to be if you haven’t learned how to be it?). Yet beyond those “smarts” you get from those books, you need the “smarts” you learn from the elective courses, the diversity you see in the halls, the discipline you learn from simultaneously studying and working, the self-pride you gain when you get an A. That piece of paper isn’t just a gateway into employment, it is a symbol of the journey you took, all the work you put in, everything you experienced, and the person you became. That paper isn’t just a solitary journey. Sure, you did the work and it is solely yours, but during that journey you came across and were affected by many people. We feed off of each other. We learn from each other along with the books. That paper is so much more than ink on a former tree. And eventually, that expensive piece of paper allows you to cross #9 off of your bucket list, and proudly move on to #10…..or #5 because you skipped that one out of fear….and it will feel great.

I also must add, learning never stops. Be it from the books or from the streets, there is always something new to absorb. And I love it. It is part of the excitement of life. And I want to be an advocate of Education. There is substantial evidence showing a correlation between Education and crime/poverty rates. We may never achieve world peace, but if there is anything that can be done to make the world just a little better, even if only in one tiny place, it is worth it. And….as I am going for English Education, I would be the worst offender of hypocrisy if I didn’t complete my education. So, there’s that. 😉

Knowledge is Power!

READ!

Live. Love. Learn.

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